Last night, I was a bit of a nag. When my fiancé pulled out a bag of potato chips, I told him I thought he should eat less processed food. I want him to be healthy, and I want us to have a future together that is as free of illness as possible. I love him and I want the best for him. So, concerned that my message wasn’t sinking in, I repeated it. Several times.
What I finally realized was that I was not making my point in a caring and supportive way. I was making him feel judged and bullied. He has been making real efforts to eat more healthfully, and I should have acknowledged and encouraged those efforts last night, rather than demanding more.
There is a fine line between constructive criticism and nagging. It has to do with ego. Last night, I wanted my fiancé to say that I was right. That he would give up processed food because he knew that everything I was saying was correct. A sentiment that originally came from a place of genuine love and concern was transformed into an ego-fueled quest to win a disagreement.
So how do we make suggestions without nagging? Recognize the other person’s efforts and accomplishments. Do not be critical or judgmental – meet the other person where he or she is. Be sure to emphasize that the suggestion is being made out of love. Keep in mind why you’re making the suggestion. When we make genuine suggestions, it is out of concern for the other person. But when we nag, it is simply our ego wanting to be right.